One of the more notable (and sensible) silences in the blogosphere around the time that the whole Usmanov issue kicked off was, of course, that of Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) who – to credit him with a modicum of intelligence – wisely chose to lie low rather than pipe-up and risk re-opening the sorry tale of how, for all his bluster and defiance about libel on his own blog, he went running to his own lawyers like a rat with its arse on fire when a number of bloggers got wind of an Guardian article about one of his [allegedly] less salubrious adventures in student politics.
Be that as it may, I did spot this post over at Guido’s a short while ago, which (as a techie) I found more than a little curious.
Geek Note : Service Interruption Possible
Guido is doing a full dress-rehearsal of his host mirroring system today. There should be no noticeable interruption to the blog. The Californian server’s 70 megabytes of contents were mirrored on a back-up server in an entirely different legal jurisdiction yesterday.
The intention is to switch servers seamlessly, see how it performs under the traffic load, then switch back to California – without losing a single comment. Isn’t technology wonderful?
So anyone thinking of wielding a legal hammer, better get a bigger hammer.
And the purpose of all this is?
You see – for those who don’t know – Guido hosts his blog on the Blogger platform, which is owned by Google and based (serverwise) is Southern California – the relevance of which will become plain in a moment.
Now, other than as a routine backup, the only real reason any blogger would have for going to thetime and trouble of setting up a blog mirroring system of the kind he describes is if you were somehow concerned that the kind of stuff you’re posting is likely to get you hammered with the kind of ‘takedown notice’ that resulted, in the Usmanov case, in the ISP that hosted Craig Murray’s blog (plus Bloggerheads, Bob Piper, and Boris Johnson) pulling all the sites offline and cancelling the account they were hosted in.
Now it’s perfectly reasonable to worry about that if you’re hosted in the UK, or anywhere else in the EU, where such notices are, if not, enforceable at least leave ISPs and hosts open to getting sued for libel over your content. But if you’re hosted in the US – as I am, and Blogger certainly is – then such notices are a complete irrelevance as they’re both unenforceable and US law (specifically s230 of the Communications Decency Act) ensures that ISP cannot be sued for libel (or anything else for that matter) over the content of a blog they only host and have no input into.
So there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever to use such a mirroring system if you’re hosted in the US, because the only thing you could use such a system to try and get around doesn’t apply to US-hosted blogs.
In short, it looks to be the usual over-hyped but worthless bullshit in much the same way that Guido’s posturing about his Nevis registered off-shore company, which owns the copyright on his blog isn’t worth the pixels its written in UK law, as would-be litigants have the option of suing either (or both) the publisher or the author.
The Nevis thing might conceivably keep him out the firing line when it comes to the antics of some of comment trolls, but it won’t keep him out the mire if he’s the one who drops the bollock and lands himself a libel action and even this whole business of having to put up a bond in order to be able to sue a Nevis registered company may not hold up if he winds up in a UK court – there’s no guarantee that a such a legal requirement in Nevis law would be accepted or enforced by a British court.
I’m guessing that the purpose of all this is simply to try and deter potential litigants by making it look both prohibitively expensive to target Guido and suggest, at the same time, that he may not be worth suing due to lack of personal assets (which with Guido’s background are likely to offshored anyway).
Frankly if someone wants him badly enough, none of that will make the slightest difference under current UK laws and even if he has stashed his cash offshore, losing a case and winding up with a award of damages against him would only leave him the option of coughing up or playing dumb and finding himself on the way to a bankruptcy court.
For the bluster and bullshit, Guido’s no less at risk of landing himself in court than any of the rest of us, which is precisely why – on the few occasions he has been called out – his immediate response has been to run for cover and remove the ‘offending’ content.